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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

NIA suspects insider’s involvement in Uri fidayeen attack

Army tightlipped on media reports about ‘killing of 10 militants’; cross-LoC firing in Uri; soldier killed in Nowgam

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


 SRINAGAR, Sep 20: National Investigation Agency (NIA), that has begun a probe into Sunday’s fidayeen attack in Uri, in which 18 soldiers died and around 20 sustained injuries, is suspecting the hand of an “insider” in facilitating the militants’ entry into the Brigade headquarters and guiding them to the garrison's  most vulnerable place.

Contrary to Army’s official versions, NIA has observed that it was not a “tent” but three regular barracks full of arms, ammunition, logistics and transit personnel that had been locked from outside and set on fire by the militants. According to sources familiar with the investigation, three adjoining barracks perished in the devastating fire, denying many of the inmates a chance to escape. Those who did were gunned down.

Hours after the inferno subsided, Army’s bulldozers have flattened the three barracks.

NIA has collected samples of a particular kind of gun powder that is believed to have been sprinkled by the militants on the barracks before setting them on fire with their lighters. The samples, sources said, have been sent to a laboratory for chemical and ballistic analysis. Horrible pictures of the slain soldiers in possession of STATE TIMES make it clear that most of the fatal casualties occurred due to severe burning.

Of the 18 soldiers killed, as many as 13 bodies are completely or partly charred. Doctors treating the injured at Army’s 92 Base Hospital said that 14 of them have burn injuries. Even as one soldier, who had been flown to Army’s Referral and Research Hospital New Delhi, has succumbed to injuries, others are responding to treatment. In the next couple of days, it could be clear how many of the dead and injured had sustained gunshot wounds or injuries from the militants’ grenades.

NIA sleuths have noticed that the intruders had sneaked into the garrison with a possible support from inside and proceeded straight to the barracks where the troops of the incoming 6-Bihar regiment and the outgoing 10-Dogra had been lodged. On Saturday, the Brigade commander had briefed them about their duties and the replacement. This timing is said to be the “most crucial” at an army camp as during the transit procedure a terrorist strike becomes easy.

In total contrariness to the Army claim that the fidayeen lobbed 17 grenades in the first three minutes, NIA sleuths are said to have noticed that the intruders had silently set on fire the arms and ammunition store (kout) containing landmines, grenades and other explosive material. A large quantity of kerosene oil was also dumped at a barrack. An oil tanker containing diesel was also parked beside a barrack. It has also perished in the fire, leading to multiple fatal casualties.

Sources said that most of the soldiers, who included four chefs and a painter, have been charred to death or have died due to asphyxiation. Some of them have also been hit by splinters flinging out of the ammunition depot.

“This can’t be possible without a thorough recce and inside guidance. How does an outsider, completely stranger to the location, know about the most vulnerable spot at a camp?” said an official familiar with the investigation. He said that call details and other technological coordinates were being analysed to find if an insider had guided the militants.

Agencies claim 10 militants killed in Uri

Meanwhile, PTI and IANS on Tuesday reported that 10 infiltrating militants were killed in an encounter with security forces in Lachhipora forward area of Uri, close to LoC. Both the agencies reported it on purported disclosure of anonymous sources. Army spokespersons in Jammu and Kashmir and New Delhi did not react to these reports and they remained tightlipped even as these were carried by almost all the newspapers and television news channels. Some channels reported that Army had, for the first time in the last two decades, intercepted a thick group of “15 to 18 infiltrators” and 8 to 10 of them had been killed.

However, well-placed official sources insisted to STATE TIMES that there was neither an encounter with the militants nor had any militant died in any encounter in Uri on Tuesday. They said that Pakistani and Indian troops traded mortar and small arms fire over Ghode Taal on LoC which apparently did not cause any damage.

“Army has neither spotted nor recovered any militant's body. Things will become clear tomorrow”, said an official. He confirmed that one soldier of Indian army got killed in an encounter with the infiltrating militants in Nowgar sector of Handwara, close to LoC, in Kupwara district.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Monday, September 19, 2016

17 soldiers killed, 19 injured in fidayeen attack on Uri brigade hqs

All 4 ‘Pak militants’ killed; unprecedented damage to Army in 27 years of insurgency happens in Modi rule; 3 barracks set on fire; Defence Minister, Army chief visit Srinagar ahead of crucial CCSA meeting

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Sep 18: In an audacious bloodbath, unprecedented in the last 27 years of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, suspected Pakistani fidayeen of Jaish-e-Mohammad on Sunday left 17 Indian Army soldiers dead and 19 more injured when they carried out a sneak attack on headquarters of the strategically important 12th Infantry Brigade at Uri, close to LoC, in northern Kashmir.

Well-placed sources in the Union and the State governments revealed to STATE TIMES that a group of four meticulously trained and heavily armed guerrillas, equipped with guns, grenades and GPS devices and unmistakably on a suicide mission, sneaked into the Brigade headquarters premises after cutting concertina fence wire at around 5.15 a.m. In just three minutes, they lobbed a blitz of 17 grenades and left the troops perplexed. They also set on fire three barracks and targeted the administrative buildings.

In the three-hour-long operation, that was also joined by special forces, as many as 17 soldiers were killed and 19 injured. Those killed in the attack included four unarmed chefs and a painter while others were personnel of the ranks of sepoy, naik, lance naik and havildar. Fifteen of them belonged to 6-Bihar and two to 10-Dogra regiment. Army said that all the four suicide actors were eliminated in the operation but their bodies were not shown to media.

All the 19 injured were airlifted and admitted to Army’s 92 Base Hospital in Srinagar, though some of them were initially treated at the local 419-Field Hospital at Uri. Four of them were reportedly critical. Of them, one was rushed from Srinagar to Army’s Referal and Research Hospital, New Delhi, by an air ambulance. Since the Army’s CVTS surgeons were reportedly on leave, 92 Base Hospital requisitioned a team of doctors from SKIMS. Sources said that two Kashmiri Muslim surgeons worked hard and they saved the life of at least three seriously injured soldiers.

Sources said that the bodies would be flown by a special plane from Srinagar to New Delhi after a wreath-laying ceremony at Headquarters 15 Corps on Monday. Later, a high profile wreath-laying ceremony, likely to be joined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ministers of his Cabinet and top Defence and civil officials, would be held in the Union Capital. Thereafter, mortal remains of all the slain soldiers would be despatched to their respective places of residence.

Union Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, and Chief of Army Staff, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, arrived in separately from New Delhi to gather first-hand account of the attack so as to strategize India’s response. The Army chief flew to Uri and interacted with the officers and the soldiers there for over one hour while the mopping up operation was still underway. On his return, Gen Suhag briefed Defence Minister about the whole episode that is threatening to assume proportions of the response India witnessed after a terror attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001.

After visiting the injured soldiers at 92 Base Hospital and interacting with senior officers, including GOC-in-C Northern Command, Lt Gen D.S. Hooda, and GOC of 15 Corps, Lt Gen Satesh K. Dua, Parrikar and Gen Suhag flew back to New Delhi where Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs is expected to meet and take a call over the Indian response to the terror attack on Monday. Prime Minister Modi is expected to preside over the meeting. Sources said that union Home Secretary Rajiv Maharishi could also visit Srinagar.

Unprecedented damage

In the 300-odd fidayeen attacks, which were introduced in J&K after Pakistan’s defeat in the Kargil war with a suicide strike on BSF’s Sector-11 headquarters at Mader, Bandipore, on July 13, 1999 (when DIG BSF and four soldiers got killed), 17 soldiers have never died in a single operation. Army suffered more loss in the Kaluchak fidayeen attack in Jammu but that time the victims were more from the soldiers’ families rather than the troops. Three Army soldiers, 18 of their family members and 10 civilians had died in so far the bloodiest fidayeen attack at Kaluchak on May 14, 2002.

Headquarters of the strategic Uri brigade have never been attacked since 1989 though an officer commanding this brigade, Brigadier Sreedhar, was the first senior Army officer who was killed in an IED blast in Kashmir at a forward position in March 1995. In the border township of Uri, the only major militant attack occurred at a PDP rally on April 8, 2003, when 11 civilians were killed and 58 injured. Senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who later became Deputy Chief Minister, had a narrow escape in that grenade attack.

In the last fidayeen attack in Kashmir, 8 CRPF men were killed and 21 left injured on the highway at Pampore on June 25, 2016. That came nearly 18 months after a suicide strike on an Army's 31 Field Regiment at Mahore (Baramulla-Uri Road) in the thick of Assembly elections on December 5, 2014. Eight Army soldiers, including Lt Col Sankalp Kumar of 24 Punjab, 3 J&K Police personnel, including ASI Mohammad Akbar, and 6 militants were among the 17 fatal casualties at the encampment as some barracks were destroyed in fire.

Sunday’s fidayeen attack in Uri came in days of a publicly held out warning by Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen chief, Syed Salah-ud-din, and the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba ideologue, Hafiz Sayeed, who threatened to train and indoctrinate Kashmiri suicide bombers and vowed to turn Kashmir “into a graveyard of the Indian soldiers”. They spoke in favour of the separatist turmoil created by the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in an encounter on July 8. On Sunday, the Valley witnessed 72nd day of continued shutdown. Eighty-six people have died and thousands have got injured in the Valley-wide clashes that are still unceasing.

Even as officials held Jaish-e-Mohammad responsible for today’s attack, none of the guerrilla groups, claimed responsibility till late in the night.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Hit by pellets, 12-year-old student found dead at Harwan 

15,000 join funeral procession at Harwan; toll reaches 86; over 100 clashes in Valley on 71st day of shutdown

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Sep 17: With recovery of the pellet-riddled body of a 12-year-old boy in Srinagar, death toll in current turmoil in Kashmir valley has reached 86 on 71st consecutive day of shutdown, following Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter on 8th July.

Residents of Theed, Harwan, said that body of the 12-year-old student Nasir Shafi alias Momin of their hamlet was spotted and recovered from behind some bushes outside the famous Harwan Garden, beside a major water reservoir, late on Friday night. They said that he had not reached home after some clashes between the protesters and Police in that area following the Friday afternoon prayers. They said that he was a 7th standard student of Greenlight School Ishbar, situated close to the CRPF headquarters in Kashmir. The school photo-identity card mentioned his Date of Birth as January 13, 2005. 

With recovery of the less than 12-year-old student, death toll in the 71-day-long turbulence has reached 86 and there were no indications of its dying down in foreseeable future. Entire South Kashmir, besides Budgam and Srinagar districts have been the worst affected.

The residents and the family members alleged that Momin had been hit in “point blank range” by Police or CRPF and killed. His body, they alleged, had been dumped in water behind some bushes in an attempt to escape responsibility. They said that it was buried amid pro-Azadi, pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans on Saturday as thousands of people from over 20 villages participated in the funeral. His father Mohammad Shafi Qazi said that the boy had gone to attend Friday afternoon prayers at Darul Uloom Kausaria at Harwan and he did not return till late. "They (Police and CRPF) had fired a full volley of pellets on his back, captured him, broken his arm and teeth, killed him in cold blood and finally thrown him in the water for wild animals", he said.

News of the 12-year-old student's death spread like a wild fire inspite of the fact that no Internet services were functional in the Valley for five days and the people had access only to print editions of a couple of dailies besides the national TV channels. Officials confirmed that 15,000 people — so far the largest congregation in the summer capital in the last 71 days of mayhem — attended the youth’s funeral prayers.

While the day’s bulletin on the situation issued by Zonal Headquarters of J&K Police did not make any mention about the death of the teenager, SP City (East) Sheikh Faisal Qayoom told STATE TIMES that the angry crowds did not let the Police take possession of the body for post mortem and other medico-legal formalities.

“We were shown photographs of the body. It has a wide pellet field on the back and none of the vital organs seems to have been hit. Most likely it could be a death by cardiac arrest but only the autopsy could determine the cause of death. We have registered a case at Police Station of Harwan and the investigation would be carried out soon”, SP East said. Another official added that Police could approach District Magistrate Srinagar to seek orders for exhumation of the body as it alone could lead to post mortem and determine cause of the death.

SP East, however, asserted that the deceased was a “known stone pelters” and, according to him, five FIRs had been registered against him in the past. He described his age as 15. Residents maintained that Police were attempting to escape their responsibility and involvement with “lies” and they all called it a “cold blooded murder”.

In the wake of resultant clashes at several places from Brain Nishat to Harwan, curfew was imposed on Srinagar outskirts. However, it could not be enforced effectively as multitudes of people occupied the streets and staged protests. Curfew also remained in force in Batmaloo and downtown Srinagar where clashes took place at the withdrawal of Police and paramilitary deployments in the evening. Curfew was also clamped down in Budgam, Kulgam, Sirigufwara and some other places where the separatists had called for local protest marches.

The shutdown, called by separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, completed 71 days post Burhan Wani’s death on July 8. Reports said that parallel to a dozen-odd peaceful demonstrations, over 71 violent clashes took place between the protesters and Police/ paramilitary forces across Kashmir valley on Saturday. Officials refused to share statistics but well informed sources said that more than 50 protesters and over a dozen Police and CRPF personnel sustained injuries in today’s clashes.

Official reports said that one each person sustained bullet injuries in Wusan ganderbal, Hajipora Shopian and Nowgam in Srinagar. Saturday’s worst clashes were reported from Ompora Budgam, Nowgam Srinagar, Hajipora Harmain and Chakpora Shopian, Lazbal Anantnag, Padgampora Pulwama, Mahend Bijbehara, Wusan Ganderbal and downtown Srinagar.

Reports of a pro-Pakistan demonstration poured in even from the garrison township of Chowkibal in Kupwara district. According to a report from Anantnag, a group of youths dragged passengers out of a Tata Sumo and caused to it extensive damage at Pazalpora, Bijbehara, on Srinagar-Jammu highway. Such reports of the youths enforcing shutdown do routinely pour in daily from different areas across the Valley.

Police version

A Police bulletin claimed that except for five incidents of stone pelting from Wussan in Ganderbal, Mehend in Anantnag, New Theed, Nishat in Srinagar and Padgampora in Awantipora, situation remained under control across the valley till evening.

“Although restrictions under section 144/CrPC remained in force in the valley, curfew was imposed in some parts of Srinagar, Budgam and Kulgam towns only, in view of the challo calls given by some separatists. To clear the road, deployment used some force in which a miscreant got injured”, it said.

“In its continuous drive against miscreants and instigators, 58 such individuals  found involved in the offences of damaging civilian vehicles, shops/houses and placing obstructions on roads/lanes have been arrested during last 24 hours. At Mehend Anantnag, about 200 miscreants pelted stones on police and security forces deployment due to which SDPO Bijbehra received grievous injuries. At Wussan, Ganderbal, a group of miscreants assembled on road and pelted stones on ITPB deployment due to which an ASI of ITBP was injured”, the Police bulletin said.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]